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Pakistan

OUR COVID-19 RESPONSE IN PAKISTAN

The first and second person diagnosed with COVID-19 in Pakistan were confirmed on February 26. Over 8,400 have now been confirmed, and more than 175 people have died.  

On April 3, MSF installed a COVID-19 screening system at Timergara District Headquarter hospital in the Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The hospital has over 1,000 visitors each day, and the new system will help protect against the virus and prevent it from spreading inside the facility to healthcare workers, patients and their caretakers, and by extension the community.  

MSF has also set-up a 15-bed isolation ward for the care of COVID-19 patients. 

A health promoter advises people to keep a distance of at least 1.5m between each other and to wash their hands at the handwashing points as they enter Timergara DHQ hospital, Pakistan. © Nasir Ghafoor / MSF

As at April 20, the MSF and Ministry of Health collaboration had screened around 14,000 people for symptoms of the virus and undertaken 245 COVID-19 consultations. Nineteen suspected or confirmed patients had been admitted to isolation: eight were confirmed as having COVID, and four were discharged fully recovered.  

Across Pakistan, MSF is conducting extensive activities to raise awareness about protection and prevention, speaking to local communities and harnessing radio, newspapers and social media.

Limited availability of medical and protective equipment supplies has had an impact on some of MSF’s other projects, which have been temporarily halted. 

 

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Our teams are also gearing up to confront potential outbreaks in the hundreds of areas we were already working before the pandemic struck. We are deploying medical staff, sending supplies and applying nearly 50 years of experience fighting epidemics to protect the most vulnerable and save lives.
 
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The Muslim-majority state of Pakistan is one of the most populous countries in the world, with more than 190 million people living within its borders.

Government restrictions and sporadic violence pose operational challenges in Pakistan. The presence of armed militant groups and ongoing counter-terrorism operations hamper humanitarian access and there is a general distrust of aid workers.

Mother and Child Health

Healthcare for women and children is a serious concern in Pakistan. Women in rural areas die from preventable complications during pregnancy and delivery, and neonatal care is unavailable in many areas.

According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, one in every 11 children dies before the age of five.

Near the Afghan border, MSF works with the Ministry of Health providing reproductive, newborn and paediatric healthcare. The team also manages an emergency room and offers inpatient and outpatient nutritional support for malnourished children under the age of five. These services are available to local residents, Afghan refugees and people who cross the border seeking medical assistance. 

MSF operates a comprehensive 24-hour emergency obstetric care service at Peshawar women’s hospital for patients referred from surrounding districts and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Teams also run an outpatient therapeutic feeding program through a network of mobile clinics and outreach sites.

In Timergara, around 200 kilometres north of Peshawar, MSF supports the district headquarters hospital’s emergency department and also provides comprehensive emergency obstetric care. 

Peshawar Women Hospital

Healthcare in Machar Colony

Karachi’s Machar Colony slum is densely populated, with around 150,000 people living in polluted conditions and facing a lack of clean water and waste disposal. MSF conducts outpatient consultations at the clinic it runs in collaboration with SINA Health Education & Welfare Trust and provides diagnosis and specialised treatment for hepatitis C, which is highly prevalent in Pakistan. The team also manages uncomplicated births and offers mental health counselling and health promotion.

Over 41% of Karachi's population lives in unregulated neighbourhoods (katchi abadis) - Machar Colony is amongst the biggest.

 

Suzette Kämink - MSF Focal Point on Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, Quetta

Home to waves of refugees and economic migrants who have settled over the past two decades in the former fishing village, the illegal slum houses thousands of people who live in squalid conditions without access to safe water or medical facilities. Migrants in Pakistan do not have access to advanced medical treatment under the government health system.

In 2017, the authorities in Kurram and Bajaur informed MSF that the certificate required for carrying out medical activities in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) would not be renewed but gave no explanation for this decision. Before the closure, MSF was responsible for the paediatric outpatient and inpatient departments. Teams also ran the neonatal unit, and treated patients with the parasitic skin disease cutaneous leishmaniasis.

It is likely that the closure of these medical facilities - delivering free, high-quality healthcare - will have serious negative implications for people who rely on them.

 

Find out more about Pakistan